Nokia E7 – Wasted Efforts

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The Nokia E7, at the very least it’s a confusing piece of hardware and pretty much sums up how Nokia as a company has been running for the last 2/3 years. It doesn’t really know what it wants to be, nor do the people behind it.

Nokia E7

Hardware
The E7 is actually a very well built device, but don’t get build quality confused with good design. I still stand by my opinion of the retro 70s look, it looks nice. These are the things that annoy me about this device from a design point of view and something Nokia keeps doing with different handsets. Stop. Moving. Things. Around.

Sliders
They really should take a note from the “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” book – yes I am talking about the lock slider and the slider volume. Why and why did those things get changed? Is this device designed for left handers in particular? Are they trying to capture an untapped market somewhere? From my experience with the X6 and 5800XM the slider has always been on the right side of the handsets, easily able to lock and unlock. Simple, works. Perfect. Why have the volume buttons turned into an uncomfortable slider, and the lock slider moved to the other side? Anyone care to explain what was wrong with how they were?

Keyboard
Those that love, want and need a physical keyboard will not be disappointed. The keyboard on this E7 is awesome. The actual keys are well spaced, have good feedback when pressed and I found myself pretty comfortable using it immediately. The space bar could have been slightly moved to the left a bit more in my opinion, it’s not quite positioned exactly as found on a full QWERTY keyboard. But that’s just a little niggle which anyone can adjust to easily.
The only thing annoying about this physical keyboard is this, sliding it up. As the E7 is identical to that of the N8 in design, adding a keyboard to it should not have been just sticking an N97 style hinge on it. Trying to push it up is not a nice feeling nor is it easy to do. It doesn’t feel natural, nor does it feel safe. Every time I found myself trying to push it up I felt it would drop out of my hands. Yes it looks nice, and cool, but it’s not a pleasant experience.

Screen
It’s a thing of beauty. It’s easily one of the best screens I’ve ever seen on a mobile. Everything is just so sharp, the colors pop out, the blacks are rich and the 4 inch real estate make it a pleasure viewing pictures and videos on it. The CBD AMOLED screen is an amazing piece of technology, you’ll have to see yourself to see exactly what I’m trying to explain here. The screen and the angle it pops out at make it a great desktop accompaniment. One could easily use this as a media centre, especially with the HDMI out functionality.

Camera
8MP – That’s what is printed on the back of the E7, right next to the dual LED flash and the lens. Yes there is no Carl Zeiss optics, no autofocus or no quality image sensor here. This is a “business phone” aimed at professionals. They don’t know how to take pictures nor do they care much about photography. They’re main priority is having access to their e-mails, which they would use the excellent screen and keyboard to deal with. That’s what I’m getting from this decision. My question is, why bother with an 8MP camera then? Why not just stick a bog standard 5MP or even a 3.2MP one on there? This all makes sense now, and this is why the great camera capture experience found on the N8 has been removed.

The Nokia E7 takes pictures like a blind dog. Sure in perfect conditions and with some practice one could learn to take some great pictures. But wasn’t the point of discarding all that tech to “dumb” it down for those business users who don’t know how to take pictures? I’m confused. For those that don’t know, here’s the deal with the camera on the E7:

taking pictures with the E7 is like trying to fight gravity, you’ll win, but only temporarily

The dedicated camera button is a shocking piece of engineering. There is no feel to it and with the EDOF (Extended Depth of Field) instead of the Autofocus you’ll be snapping away before you even know it. Don’t forget to take the flash off, otherwise it will suck all the saturation away. It’s like a black hole, everything you see on the big screen is sucked away, just like that, in a flash, literally. What the E7 has accomplished is designed a camera experience for a child, snap, snap, snap. “look mommy I take pikchar!”

Software
Where do we go with this? What’s changed since I had a Symbian phone? Quite a lot it seems. The home screen mainly seems to have been revamped. But how good is it? If you are coming back from Android, iOS or WebOS, then get ready for some confusing days. I’ll try and keep it short. Here’s the problem; nothing works as user would like them to. Nothing has been engineered / designed to be user friendly, or work with human instincts. It is and will be until its death an OS that was adapted from non touch to touch. Symbian can never be user friendly for touch. It goes against it’s very existence.

I know how robust it is, how powerful and capable it is, I have been a user for years, but the problem here is this; evolution takes time, time is something you don’t have in the current mobile market. But yet you can still fix some of the annoyances, and yet they haven’t been fixed? Why? Very simple things, which would go some way to act as a stop gap between the transition to whatever is next for Nokia.

Homescreen
Right off from the go, one is met with a confusion of icons and widgets and screens. That’s the greeting a new user gets when turning the E7 on first time? Why? Simplify it. Start an on screen tutorial, get the user to set-up all the accounts and settings and explain to them how the handset works and how to interact with it. Don’t assume the user is going go know how to use the device from the get go. Symbian is not something anyone can pickup as quick as iOS or Android or WebOS.

The dedicated Menu button is nice, but why isn’t there one on-screen? Yet there is an Options and Call buttons on-screen? Why are they in text? Why do you assume everyone can read? Yes this IS an E7, but it’s the same across the whole range of Symbian devices.

Widgets
Why is it designed to be such a pain in the ass to move things around? Why does everything consist of having to go through menus after menus, selecting, deselecting and confirming, before the user can actually make changes to their list of widgets. Why are they all confined to selected regimes of a linear universe? Is this digital cyberspace controlled by Clu? Where is the freedom for the user to be able to move stuff around anyhow they want by dragging icons. Why does it take 5 different menus to get through before one can change the shortcuts to apps displayed on the homescreen? Why does it take Android and iOS “ONE” step to achieve all this?

Everything Else
I really would like to go into detail on how to improve everything around Symbian, well maybe 2 years ago when something could have been done. But now it’s too late. Apps, Games, OVI? I’ll put it simply, Where? and Why? Where are they? And Why is OVI still alive?

Conclusion
As I said the at the start of this post. The E7 is a piece of hardware design in the midst of chaos with a regressive mentality by a company riddled with incompetence and lacking in progressive thinkers all wrapped up in red tape and bureaucracy. It’s a bi-product of not having a clear strategy of what a device should be. All devices should be created with a purpose, not to just fill the gaps in markets missing from your portfolio.

I understand Nokia is going through a transitional period. What annoys me is in the matter they got to this point in their existence. It’s a shameful way for such a giant of the industry to fall. We can all see the how, why and when now, but when it was happening, where were the people who should have been doing their job to listen.

At the end of the day, it’s all business. The problem with being a multi-billion-dollar business is you’ve grown so big, you can’t see your feet anymore.

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